I refer to Crazy Egging, a carbuncle of the former Senate who wants his pus spread to the lower House in quite a few Queensland electorates and some in NSW, including the PM’s seat of Cook, which includes Cronulla — my home in adolescence and early adulthood. So he visited the other day, and guess what? Violence ensued. “Nothing to do with me,” quoth Egging, perhaps while chilling in a Munich beer hall later on.
Here are twenty-five sometimes passionate posts written during the Cronulla affair of December 2005. I see this period as something of a watershed for Australian multiculturalism. There will be some links that are no longer viable after two years. See also Four Corners: Riot and Revenge (March 2006).
1. Bad blood boils in the Cronulla stomp – National – smh.com.au: 2005-12-08
This was my first entry on this affair which, with its sequels, attracted an amazing amount of attention during December. For details, go to the December 2005 archive.
Ugly scenes at my old beach.
When I began teaching at Cronulla High 1965 (prac) and 1966 (appointed), the main street looked like this.
This is a recent pic, but I recognise it and can almost hear and smell the sea and the Norfolk Island pine trees.
…racial tension resurfaced at the beach when a group of young men started brawling with three locals outside Cronulla’s lifesaving club, then turned on a news photographer as police intervened. Police arrested a 20-year-old man from Riverwood and charged him with smashing the photographer’s camera. They were still looking for the rest of the men last night and said they had not ruled out a link between yesterday’s violence and Sunday’s attack.
Erika Lamour, 18, was at the beach yesterday when the violence broke out. “I saw a group of ethnic people come down as usual and try to start a fight,” she said. “They always do it. I didn’t actually see the fight. But I saw everyone running towards the club.” Ms Lamour said the gangs that roamed the beach targeted the locals. “They always come down trying to start trouble. It’s the only reason we don’t want to come down, because we know we will get harassed.”
She said she had received an email asking locals to come to the beach this Sunday. “I got an email this morning saying that all the [Sutherland] Shire people should come down on Sunday and we should reclaim the Shire.”
After Sunday’s violence, lifesavers said gangs had been intimidating them and beachgoers in the southern and eastern suburbs for two years. The State Opposition says police cannot respond to the violence quickly enough because they have lost 18 officers in the Cronulla area.
Chief Superintendent Robert Redfern said yesterday’s violence started at 4.20pm when three local youths made a comment to a group of about six Middle Eastern-looking men at the beach. The comment sparked a fight. “As a result of the fight, one of the males coming off the beach received a cut to the face and some bruising,” he said.
Detective Inspector Steve O’Grady said one of the men involved in the fight had left the beach before police arrived. He said tensions were still high when they got there.
Worth highlighting that couple of sentences, though this is not to deny that the “usual suspects” often act out their own stereotypes only too well. Or some groups within their communities do; probably most do not. Testosterone too has a lot to answer for, as well as, perhaps even more than, culture. Judging from ABC Radio 702 this morning, the police do seem to be handling things well now and the locals would be well advised to leave it to the police.
Judge for yourselves the email doing the rounds in Sutherland Shire. And here is what a right-wing piece of shit does with the story. This one is more balanced, from a girl who is a lifesaver at Elouera, “300m walk tops” from North Cronulla. But one cannot help sympathising with Larissa:
Tuesday, December 6
This is just disgusting.
These guys volunteer to help keep people safe. They give up their free time to make sure no one in their local community gets injured and also give up their lives to save people like these louts.
As someone who’s grown up in Cronulla it angers me that people come and do this.
Don’t bring your sort of lifestyle to our area, just because you’re bored with yours mean you should do that here. Either play nicely or stay away.
Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.
[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:
John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.
Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.
One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”. That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…
Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.
Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.
While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of “middle eastern appearance” are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).
It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).
The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…
Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.
I rather think people in The Shire, not being all that stupid, will give Egging the bum’s rush when it comes to the vote! Nice if he scored zero, but failing that let his candidate — whoever the goose is — fail to get his deposit back! For once I have to say, “Go Scomo!”